Soon, thank heaven, the 2016 election will be over. Americans can stop fussing over how many women Donald Trump molested, or what Russian hackers found in Hillary Clinton emails. Then, I hope, thinking people can focus again on issues that really matter:
Can America finally gain complete universal health insurance covering all citizens as a human right — a government-run national system suppressing medical costs, as exists in most democracies?
Can economic changes reduce the amassing of wealth by the billionaire 1 percent, and give the middle class a better chance?
Can controls manage the pistol saturation that gives America the worst murder rate among civilized nations?
Will pollution enforcement finally reduce the catastrophic menace of global warming?
Will marijuana become legal nationwide, ending the police-and-prison prohibition that works no better than Prohibition of alcohol did?
Will Black Lives Matter become a reality, reducing police killings of unarmed African-American men?
Can better birth control prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies that drive desperate women and girls to seek termination?
Will the barbaric death penalty finally cease in the United States, as it has in virtually all democracies?
Will white supremacy fade as the rising tide of Hispanics, Asians, blacks, Pacific Islanders, Muslims, etc., makes America more multicultural, with no majority?
Will college become free for all Americans capable of advanced study?
Will U.S. militarism — by far the world’s largest — continue costing taxpayers $1 trillion per year, counting veteran expense and interest on past spending done with borrowed money?
Will America continue imprisoning more than 2 million people, giving this country the worst incarceration rate among modern societies?
Can changes prevent U.S. corporations from laying off American workers and shifting production to low-wage countries — and prevent U.S. corporations from stashing profits overseas to duck taxes?
Can human rights grow more entrenched around the world to reduce cruelty?
After the tumult and shouting of the 2016 campaign ends, goals like these should get new attention. They concern liberal democracy, the system of government of the people, by the people, for the people.
During the past century, liberal democracy won enormous gains:
Women won the right to vote. Couples won the right to practice birth control. Retirees won Social Security pensions. Jobless workers won unemployment compensation and other safety net provisions. Labor won the right to organize. African-Americans escaped Jim Crow segregation. Medicare and Medicaid expanded health treatment. The disabled and workers hurt on the job gained protections. Censorship of books, movies and magazines was wiped out. The Affordable Care Act expanded health treatment further. Gays won, first decriminalization, then the right to marry.
In all these struggles, conservatives fought fierce resistance, but liberal progressives finally carried the day, improving humanity and Western civilization. I hope this pattern continues forever.
The 2016 election has been a carnival, a circus, a farce. In only a few days, it will fade into the past. But the deep public questions — things that really matter — still will stare us in the face.
James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail. He can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org. Column courtesy of the Associated Press.